Highest resolution microscope
Electron ptychography, Cornell University, David Muller
0.02 nanometre(s)
United States (Ithaca)

The highest resolution microscope imaging technique can resolve details as little as 20 picometres across (that's 0.2 ångström, or about a fifth of the width of a hydrogen atom). The technnique, called Electron ptychography, was developed by a team of researchers led by David Muller of Cornell University (USA) and the images were published in Science on 21 May 2021.

The “ptychographic” microscope is capable of magnifying atoms by 100 million times. The device builds up a picture by firing billions of electrons per second at the target from multiple angles. Computer algorithms analyse the resulting electron patterns to reveal an image.

The image published by the team shows atoms inside a green, solid substance called praseodymium orthoscandate (PrScO3). It captures multiple layers of atoms within it, each tens to hundreds of atoms thick. This resolution is double the previous record set by the same team in 2018.